Policy Statement by Mr Kim Hak-Su Under-Secretary-General, United
Nations, and Executive Secretary, ESCAP (Monday, 23 April 2001)
Mr Chairman, Honourable Ministers, Excellencies,
Distinguished Representatives, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I consider it an honour and a privilege to address the Commission
for the first time since assuming my responsibilities as Executive Secretary
of ESCAP. As a unique intergovernmental body covering the vast and
diverse expanse of Asia and the Pacific, ESCAP, in my view, can and should
do more to build on the growing impulse for regional cooperation in the
economic and social fields. I intend to follow this course during
my term of office. Our resources may be limited, but their efficient
and productive use in meeting the needs of the member states is my aim.
This will be possible only with your support and cooperation.
For several years, this region enjoyed an unsullied reputation
for its economic dynamism. In the aftermath of the Asian economic
and financial crisis in 1997, that reputation has been somewhat tarnished.
Nevertheless, as noted in this year's Economic and Social Survey of Asia
and the Pacific, the region's economic performance continued to strengthen
in 2000. Several developing economies improved on their growth performance
of a year earlier. Broadly speaking, a favourable external environment
is an essential prerequisite to sustain the region's growth momentum and
to complement national efforts in that regard.
Despite the generally improved economic growth performance of
the region, uncertainties remain. A few months ago, a much more optimistic
scenario was predicted. Uncertainties in the global environment have
since tempered that scenario. An increasingly unfavourable external
environment, including the slowdown in the US economy and the lack of recovery
of the Japanese economy, is likely to reduce the projected growth rates
for 2001 indicated in the Survey. Several other factors are likely
to impinge on the region's growth performance:
- volatility of oil prices;
- rising levels of public debt;
- impact of demographic dynamics;
- substantial increase in flows of international migration;
- the "push-pull" factor in rural-urban migration and the
impact of free-market economic policies, as detailed in this year's theme
study on "Balanced development of urban and rural areas and regions within
the countries of Asia and the Pacific."
The process of globalization has served to accentuate the differences
between our economies and societies. In an increasingly interdependent
world, notions of responsibility and accountability appear to have been
cast aside in favour of short-term gains. One has only to look at
the development picture of this region to see that the advances made have
not been all encompassing. Widespread poverty in Asia remains endemic.
Impressions of progress and prosperity ought to be seen in perspective,
especially in terms of contrasts within the region.
At the United Nations Millennium Summit in September last year,
the world's leaders pledged to eliminate extreme poverty by the year 2015.
Taking the cue from the Millennium Declaration, I expressed my vision for
ESCAP up to the year 2005 comprising the following elements:
1. Transfer of proven best practices of poverty eradication
in the region to developing member states, in different environments.
There are several illustrations of proven best practices in the region
including, among others, Saemaul Undong in the Republic of Korea and Grameen
Bank in Bangladesh. It is my intention to test these models in, say,
a least developed country, a Pacific island economy and a transitional
economy to see if we can try to develop an "ESCAP model" on poverty eradication.
2. Reversal of the weakening positions of developing member
states arising from and along with the process of globalization, and strengthening
their negotiating position as a consequence of their weak negotiating capacity.
Developing countries are being increasingly marginalized through the process
of globalization, liberalization and rapid advances in information technology.
Government officials in many instances are not familiar with the substance
and implications of global agreements and conventions and protocols.
ESCAP, in cooperation with such bodies as the World Trade Organization,
the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development and the United Nations
Environment Programme, with whom we have institutionalized our cooperation
could organize training courses for developing country officials on accession
to trade agreements and environmental conventions.
3. Detection and tackling of common and emerging social
problems and issues in the region. These include, among others, the
increasingly serious problem of HIV/AIDS, which has been given a special
focus at this Commission session in preparation for the Special Session
of the General Assembly on HIV/AIDS in June this year, as well as issues
relating to population ageing, migration and disability. ESCAP has
a strong social development programme but the tasks ahead are enormous.
I intend to pay special attention to social issues in the coming months.
When I assumed my present Office, I realized that ESCAP has both
strengths and weaknesses. We need to capitalize on the strengths
and remedy the weaknesses. I felt the need for an objective professional
view and analysis of the situation. Following a series of consultations
with United Nations Headquarters, the United Nations Office for Project
Services, UNOPS, has been contracted to undertake a management consultancy
to improve our efficiency and productivity through the introduction of
modern management techniques. Let me point out here that several
Organizations, including UNCTAD, UNIDO, UNESCO, ILO, FAO and WHO have gone
through a similar process of reform in order to make themselves more relevant
in a fast-changing world.
While the first phase of the management consultancy has been largely
driven by considerations of "process change", I intend to undertake a broader
and more comprehensive organizational change. This will focus on
a "reengineering" of ESCAP's programmes, conference and secretariat structures,
leading up to the review next year of the implementation of Commission
resolution 53/1 and a blueprint for our future work. I have decided
to establish a more systematic and regular impact monitoring system in
the secretariat so that the results therefrom could be utilized to further
enhance the relevance and effectiveness of ESCAP's programme of work.
In that context, I look forward to benefitting from the views of heads
of delegations of the member Governments as to what they expect from ESCAP
in the course of the Ministerial Roundtable tomorrow.
It is clear that ESCAP cannot go on doing everything. Times
have changed. New regional organizations have emerged with their
own expertise and areas of competence. We need to introspect and
ask ourselves some tough questions. Can we claim to be the repository
of Asia-Pacific thinking? Can ESCAP make a difference?
We need to hone in on those areas in which we can claim to have the comparative
and competitive advantage, specially in the light of resource constraints.
We need to adopt more innovative approaches to address issues such as information
and communications technology, both internally within the secretariat as
well as in helping countries to bridge the digital divide.
Efforts are underway to formulate bigger and better projects involving
two or more Divisions within the secretariat. I recognize that resource
constraints pose a problem but with well-prepared, efficiently managed,
and good project profiles, I plan to visit the capitals of several non-traditional
donor countries in the near future as part of a resource mobilization effort.
Eventually, I hope we will be in a position to tap private sector resources.
In view of the impetus provided by the "Global Compact", this would be
a logical extension of our attempt to reach out to the private sector.
I am also engaged in the process of setting up a Private Sector Advisory
Group, comprising private sector CEOs from the region, to assist and advise
me in carrying forward the work of ESCAP.
Similarly, with the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and
the United Nations Development Programme, steps have been taken to promote
a true sense of partnership. I am pleased to inform the Commission
that we are joining hands with the World Bank and ADB in organizing the
Third Asia Development Forum at this venue in June this year. With
UNDP, I was privileged to have been invited to attend and address the Meeting
of UNDP Resident Representatives in Asia and the Pacific which was held
in Beijing less than two weeks ago.
I am convinced of the need to work more closely with our partners
in development, both within and outside the UN system. I will continue
to accord high priority to the Heads of Agency Meeting process, which I
co-chair with the UN Resident Coordinator in Thailand. I remain committed
to the focus of poverty alleviation within that process and, more broadly
speaking, in the work of ESCAP.
Let me now turn to some of the issues that have been at the forefront
of the global agenda; issues that have been among our major preoccupation
this past year and will be confronting us again in the immediate future.
I refer to important regional conferences at the Ministerial level organized
by ESCAP to articulate a regional perspective to be presented at forthcoming
global events relating to "financing for development" and "sustainable
As you are aware, an International Conference on Financing for
Development sponsored by the United Nations will be held in Mexico next
year. In this connection, ESCAP, in collaboration with the Government
of Indonesia and with the cooperation of ADB and UNCTAD, organized a High-Level
Regional Consultative Meeting on Financing for Development in August last
year. The report of the meeting has been made available to the Co-Chairmen
of the Preparatory Committee for the International Conference. Further,
the recommendations emerging from the Jakarta meeting have been incorporated
in the report of the Secretary-General submitted to the Preparatory Committee
for the Conference.
Following the Jakarta meeting, the secretariat undertook an in-depth
study on the subject of financing for development. The study has
been published as Part Two of this year's Survey and focus on domestic
resource mobilization, external private resources, official flows and international
systemic issues, with a number of policy recommendations for each of these
I am confident that ESCAP will make a significant substantive
contribution to the International Conference on Financing for Development
in Mexico in 2002.
"The World Summit for Sustainable Development" will be convened
in Johannesburg, South Africa, next year. Preparatory work underway
at the regional level will be very significant in shaping the Agenda for
the Summit. From the regional perspective, a major thrust of the
Summit should be on the impact of poverty and globalization on the environment.
"Ecological poverty", which is the result of degradation of natural
resources base is the most sombre dimension of poverty. This is evident
in many areas of the region. The flora has virtually disappeared;
erosion of land prevails unchecked; and the hydrological cycle has been
disturbed. As a consequence, the basic means of livelihood have disappeared
and more people are becoming impoverished. It is therefore imperative
to undertake remedial actions and policy reforms which, on the one hand,
reduce poverty and, on the other, protect the region's environment.
Like poverty, globalization has taken its toll. In the past few years,
its destructive impact on natural resources and biodiversity has been more
severe than anticipated.
The Regional Action Programme adopted at the Ministerial Conference
on Environment and Development in Asia and the Pacific 2000 held at Kitakyushu,
Japan, in September last year provides a framework for action on issues
of vital concern to the region. ESCAP will be collaborating with
ADB, UNEP, UN/DESA in organizing five subregional intergovernmental meetings,
two regional roundtables and a regional preparatory meeting. The
process will enable developing countries to articulate their concerns regarding
the implementation of Agenda 21 and facilitate the identification of initiatives
to overcome any constraints. I urge all members and associate members
to actively participate in the regional preparatory process and evolve
a "regional platform" outlining key policy issues, priorities and follow-up
Another important event in which the stakes are high for developing
countries, particularly of this region, is the next WTO Ministerial Conference
scheduled to be held in November this year in Qatar. The last Commission
session, as you would recall, deliberated on the theme topic relating
to the fair and equitable integration of developing countries into the
international trading system. This was followed by the meeting of
eminent persons as 'Friends of the Chair' hosted by the Chairman
of the 56th session of the Commission, H.E. Dr Kamal Kharrazi, Minister
for Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The eminent
persons emphasized "sustainable integration" which takes into account the
level of development and peculiar situation prevailing in each country
as well as assures that people are the centre and part of the process itself.
Notwithstanding the many WTO Agreements, most developing countries continue
to remain at the margin; integration eludes them. In fact, the reverse
process can be seen -- one of disintegration leading to disenchantment,
disappointment and despair. Any new round of negotiations must therefore
be predicated on assuring the developing countries a level playing field
and removing existing imbalances by focussing on faithful implementation
of existing agreements and the built-in agenda. Bringing new issues
on the agenda would be divisive. It would threaten a repeat of the
Seattle debacle. ESCAP will continue to work closely with the WTO
and UNCTAD to assist developing countries to successfully advocate their
concerns and advance their common interests in future negotiations.
Moreover, the principle of universality of membership of WTO must
not remain a rhetoric. It must be faithfully pursued so that the
more than half of the region's economies which remain outside the WTO,
can gain accession without any further delay.
It is my intention to pay special attention to the needs of the
least developed, landlocked and island developing countries of this region.
ESCAP has been active in the regional preparatory work for the Third United
Nations Conference on Least Developed Countries, to be held in Brussels
in May this year. I plan to attend that Conference. I also
plan to visit the Pacific sub-region in August this year and will have
discussions with leaders of the Pacific island delegations attending the
Commission in the coming days to explore the feasibility of organizing
a Ministerial meeting during my visit.
Infrastructure redevelopment continues to be a daunting challenge
for developing countries. Opportunities emerging from gobalization
and leap frogging developments in technology allude them because they lack
the infrastructure. We, therefore, attach considerable importance
to the ESCAP Ministerial Conference on Infrastructure Development, to be
held in November this year in Seoul, at the generous invitation of the
Government of the Republic of Korea. The Conference will address
emerging issues of vital significance for the economic and social development
of the region. These issues not only relate to the development of
transport infrastructure but also its impact on poverty alleviation, environment,
social safety, etc. These are closely aligned with my vision for
It is clear from this brief tour d'horizon that the challenges
before us are many. In this era of globalization, regional cooperation
as a means of articulating the shared interests of developing countries
has assumed greater significance. ESCAP, through its catalytic role,
can help to bridge the gap between the middle and low-income countries.
I look forward to working together with the member states in translating
this vision into reality.